Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 (1939)

On paper, this sounds quite odd: a movie with Joan Crawford and James Stewart as a show biz ice-skating couple which culminates in a 15 minute Technicolor ice follies sequence. Unfortunately, it's really a rather dull affair, one in a long line of dreary movies of the classic era in which a fragile male can't take his wife's (or girlfriend's) success, causing the breakup of their relationship until he proves himself to be the better breadwinner. Stewart, Crawford, and Lew Ayers are an ice-skating act, with Crawford singing, but they're fired because the boss thinks that skating and singing don't mix. Crawford and Stewart marry, and Ayers, feeling like a fifth wheel, leaves the act. Crawford finagles her way into the office of studio boss Lewis Stone and gets a contract, a new name, a glamorous image, and a breakout movie role, all in about five minutes. Stewart, upset at her success, leaves her to become a producer of ice shows. Over time, they all run into each other again, Ayers becoming a producing partner with Stewart, and eventually Crawford quits the movies to be with her man. One problem here is that Stewart and Ayers (pictured in their simply charming ice-skating outfits) have more chemistry together that Stewart and Crawford. Another problem is the predictability of the stupid male-pride plot; as soon as Crawford leaves the studio boss's office, you know she'll have to give up her career in the end. Lionel Stander has a small role as an agent. The various musical bits are OK, but unless you're an ice follies freak, there's no reason to sit though this. [TCM]

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